ABC journalist Dan Oakes won’t face prosecution over Afghan Files reporting

The Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions has confirmed ABC journalist Dan Oakes will not face prosecution over his work on the Afghan Files.

It’s been over a year since the Australian Federal Police (AFP) raided ABC headquarters in Sydney and three months since the AFP pushed for charges against Oakes.

The Afghan Files, which uncover allegations that Australian soldiers unlawfully killed 10 men and children in Afghanistan, was written by both Oakes and Samuel Clark, a fellow ABC journalist, but only Oakes was pursued in the brief of evidence from the AFP.

In a post written this morning, Oakes said he was relieved to not face prosecution, but that much more needs to be done in the fight for press freedom.

“I think it would require a lot of words to adequately convey the significance of what happened to Sam Clark and I,” said Oakes in the piece on the ABC.

“I don’t say that in an attempt to invite sympathy.

“We are big boys, and I personally feel a little uncomfortable receiving sympathy and congratulations this week (although I truly appreciate it).

“But it is legitimate to ask why journalists who are trying to bring to the public attention something that is clearly in the public interest, and might otherwise remain hidden, should be investigated and subjected to highly intrusive investigations by the Federal Police.”

Oakes’ comments were echoed by the industry union, the Media, Entertainment & Arts Alliance, which said it will continue to fight for genuine reform of laws that restrict the public’s right to know and put public interest journalism in peril.

MEAA Media federal president Marcus Strom said: “This is clearly good news for Dan who has had this threat hanging over him since he and colleague Sam Clark revealed allegations of war crimes by Australian soldiers in Afghanistan. That story, reported in July 2017, is true. But because they told the truth the ABC was subjected to a nine-hour raid by the Australian Federal Police in June 2019 – almost two years after the allegations were aired.

“It’s disturbing that Australia can operate like a police state by criminalising journalism, raiding journalists in their homes and workplaces, and threatening them with jail for their legitimate journalism that is clearly in the national interest.”

The Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions believed “there were reasonable prospects of conviction” in relation to two of three charges relating to the ABC news story.

“That is a clear indication that Australia’s laws must be reformed. These laws allow government agencies to operate in secret. These laws punish journalists and whistleblowers for upholding the public’s right to know and are being used in response to news stories that embarrass governments. They are being used to pursue and punish whistleblowers, and to threaten and muzzle the media.

“That undermines our democracy because these laws have a chilling effect on journalism by using jail terms to punish legitimate scrutiny of government.”

Earlier this year, the warrant used to raid the home of News Corp Australia journalist Annika Smethurst was thrown out by the High Court. Smethurst’s home was raided shortly before the raid on the ABC HQ.

The ongoing debate that followed the raids saw Australia drop five spots in the World Press Freedom Index with the report pointing out the ‘fragility of press freedom’ and the lack of ‘press freedom guarantees’ inside Australia’s constitutional laws.


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